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Gathering and spreading light is one of the central moral concepts of the univer

Gathering and spreading light is one of the central moral concepts of the university. Image: Jürgen Scheere (University of Jena)

University of Jena adopted new mission statement

In a meeting on Tuesday, 16 February, the University Senate adopted the new mission statement for Friedrich Schiller University Jena. This was preceded by a nine-month multi-stage discussion and participation process involving all groups at the university.

"The new mission statement is unmistakable," says Prof Walter Rosenthal, President of Friedrich Schiller University Jena. "It raises our profile and serves as an orientation for research, teaching and studying as well as for working together at the university and in exchange with others."

Tailored to the University of Jena

"It was particularly important to us that the mission statement is closely linked to the University of Jena, tailor-made for it, so to speak," explains educationalist and theologian Prof Ralf Koerrenz. Together with 12 other members of a Senate task force, he drafted the mission statement, which met with broad approval from the university’s staff and students.

The mission statement ties in with the three keywords Light, Life and Liberty, which also describe the interdisciplinary research profile of Friedrich Schiller University. "We realised that this distinction between Light, Life and Liberty can not only be understood as a classification of research areas, but can also be thought of in another, value-oriented, dimension," adds Koerrenz.

Thus, each of the three keywords was translated into a central moral concept: gathering and spreading light (Light), preserving and nurturing life (Life) and protecting and shaping liberty (Liberty). The task force then used these abstract goals to develop practical guidelines that would provide a framework for the university’s conduct. 

Engaging in social debates

However, the university’s mission statement goes beyond research, teaching and interaction within the university. In a university-wide online survey that accompanied the mission statement process, 93% of the 720 respondents agreed that it was the university’s task to contribute to protecting human rights and human dignity in society.

Shaped by its eventful history and the appropriation of the university during the National Socialist and GDR periods, it is important to the members and affiliates of the University of Jena to engage in social debates.

"The discussion surrounding the draft mission statement has once again made it clear that as a university, we are obliged to speak out if the basic democratic values of our society are under attack," says Rosenthal. This has already been done in the past, for example, when the Rektor’s office at the university took the initiative to establish a "Centre of Expertise on Right-Wing Extremism" (KomRex) in 2011 after the series of murders by the right-wing terrorist NSU group became publicly known. Funded by the Thuringian state government, KomRex continues to implement scientific results from research on right-wing extremism, democratisation, and social integration, together with partners from civil society and politics.

Recently, the university went public with its stance against racism. In September 2019, the Jena Declaration was adopted at the 112th Annual Meeting of the German Zoological Society, denouncing the term "race" as a racist construct. "With his division of humans into races, Jena professor Ernst Haeckel paved the way for the misanthropic racial typification under National Socialism. The development of the subjects of racial science and racial hygiene was advanced at the University of Jena in the 1930s. The university is therefore inextricably linked to the history of racism and has a special obligation to educate about racism and take action against it," Rosenthal explains. The rejection of racist discrimination was therefore explicitly included in the mission statement, which was wholeheartedly approved by the university’s Senators.

You can find the new mission statement here:

There is more on the development process and background to the text in the Uniblog.

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